Ninja Warrior

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"From the Land of the Rising Sun, one hundred determined athletes have accepted the challenge to become...Ninja Warrior! Divided into four extreme stages, competitors must face the ultimate test of strength and will, in their quest to become champion. Many are called, few are chosen. Now, let's find out who's tough enough to become the next...Ninja Warrior!"
Opening narration of Ninja Warrior on G4TV

Originally Sasuke in Japan, Ninja Warrior is a Japanese sports entertainment program (no, not that kind of sports entertainment) that was made famous through G4TV's Americanization. Ninja Warrior has grown in popularity as of late, especially due to the heightened exposure thanks to being on American television.

At its core, it's an obstacle course with the difficulty knob turned up to "Nightmare Mode" and then broken clean off. You get ONE try at a perfect run, and if you go off-course on any obstacle (usually by falling into the pools of water beneath them) or run out of time on timed segments, you are out for good. It eventually turned into a national phenomenon in Japan, where regulars and champions from the course get near-instant recognition. The Sasuke tournament itself has been running for the past ten years, with two tournaments held each year, for a total of 27 competitions thus far.

The course takes place at the base of Midoriyama, regardless of the weather conditions. Adjusting to extreme heat, cold, or rain is a prerequisite if one has any hope of making it very far. Each competition usually begins in the afternoon and continues for as long as it takes for all 100 competitors to either fail or complete the course.

The individual stages and obstacles change from one tournament to the other, but the general purposes of each stage remain the same:

  • Stage 1 is timed, and it focuses primarily on speed and agility.
  • Stage 2 is also timed, but it relies more on strength and endurance, especially upper body strength.
  • Stage 3 is not timed, but this is because the obstacles are far more strength-oriented, and the last three obstacles don't have a place to stop and relax in between.
  • Stage 4, the last stage, is always the same: any competitor lucky enough to get this far must ascend to the top of a large tower within a very stringent time limit. One version is two-stage climbing 100 feet using a spider-wall method for the first half and an open rope climb the rest of the way, the other version is a straight 50 foot rope climb. A third version replaces the Spider Climb with a rope ladder. There's now a fourth version of this stage, but nobody had gotten past Stage 3 yet to see it until the 27th competition, when the tower was reduced in height by half to 66 feet, and it being a rope climb similar to the first version of Stage 4.
  • Each stage, including the final stage, ends when the competitor hits the trigger button (or simply crosses a finish line) at the end of the stage. This can result in a competitor actually finishing every obstacle during a stage and still failing his run because the trigger wasn't pressed in time (or in one case, because the competitor didn't know there was a button).

Out of the 26 competitions (2,700 attempts) to date, only three men have ever defeated the entire course (a success rate of 0.12%). Yuuji Urushihara was the first to repeat the feat in the 27th competition. In one competition a half-dozen competitors made it to the final stage, only for each to be systematically defeated.

An all-female version, called Kunoichi, follows the same rules as Sasuke and is filmed at the same location; unlike Sasuke, Kunoichi is filmed less frequently (to date, there have been only 8 competitions, averaging out to one per year). This course uses different obstacles focusing more on balance and speed and is exclusively for female competitors (Sasuke allows both genders to compete, but only one woman has ever completed Stage 1 in Sasuke). Of the 8 competitions (800 attempts), one woman - Ayako Miyake - completed the entire course three times in a row, and two more women have also finished the entire course (both doing it during the 8th Competition).

In 2007, G4TV - which airs Ninja Warrior in the US - held an "American Ninja Challenge" and chose the best competitors from this challenge to fly out to Japan and try out for Sasuke's 19th Competition. Ever since then, they have run a new "American Ninja Challenge" that coincides with upcoming Sasuke competitions.

The popularity of the contest eventually led G4 to film the first-ever American Ninja Warrior, an all-American edition of the competition; this competition was filmed in Japan on the Sasuke course, and was limited to ten finalists out of numerous competitors who tried out for the event. The eight-part special, which covers both the tryouts and the actual competition in Japan, premiered in December of 2009. In later years the show has been structured in a Survivor-type reality show, with 3 teams of 5 competing against each other and the surviving 10 getting the chance to compete at the actual competition at Midoriyama.

The show Sasuke should not be confused with an anime/manga people are insisting should be renamed "Sasuke".

Tropes used in Ninja Warrior include:
  • AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: Shunsuke Nagasaki's name is continually pronounced "Shun-soo-kay" by Dave Wittenberg when it should be "Shun-skay". It's especially bizarre because others whose names are pronounced in a similar fashion are correctly pronounced.
    • What makes this really strange is that Wittenberg is an anime voice actor, so you would think he would be used to Japanese pronunciations.
  • Action Mom: Chie Nishimura, who returns later in Kunoichi, making it to the third stage, showing even as a housewife, she's still got it.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign / Department of Redundancy Department: The American narration calls it "Mt. Midoriyama"; the Japanese suffix -yama means "mountain". So the narrator is in essence saying "Mount Midori Mountain".
    • Channel guides list the Kunoichi competitions as Kunoichi Women's. A kunoichi is the term for a female ninja.
  • Awesomeness By Analysis / Badass Bookworm: One guy overcame the Warped Wall obstacle (basically a wall curved outward) by studying tapes of it and writing a trigonometric equation.
    • Another one made a to-scale mock-up of the course and did impressively well; he only ran out of time on the last rope climb.
  • Badass: Pretty much all the serious competitors, and even a few somewhat silly ones like comedian Wakky.
  • Badass Adorable: Ayako Miyake is really really cute and has also won Kunoichi three times, consecutively. Yuko Mizuno, Rena Higashi, and Rie Komiya also count.
  • Badass Bystander: Each and every one of the "Ninja Warrior All-Stars", whose professions run the gamut from fishermen to government employees to gas station managers. Only Toshihiro Takeda, a firefighter, is in a profession that people perceive as having to regularly deal with the kind of exertion that the obstacles provide.
    • Not just the "All-Stars". In the 22nd tournament, only one man made it to Stage 4, and was the first person to do so since Makoto Nagano beat Stage 4. His name is Yuuji Urushihara. His profession? Shoe salesman.
      • He topped that in the 24th tournament by becoming the third man to ever beat the entire course. Then did it AGAIN in the 27th tournament by being the only man to do it twice.
  • Badass Family: Makoto Nagano's wife Asami competed in at least one run of Kunoichi, and did quite well all things considered.
  • Badass Grandpa: He's not that old, but Kenjiro Ishimaru is the oldest competitor to clear the first stage, being in his 50s and in excellent physical condition. Of course, fans of Kamen Rider Den-O already knew how awesome he is.
  • Blind Idiot Translation: For some inexplicable reason, fireman Kouji Yamada is always referred to as Yasushi Yamada in the US broadcast.
  • Boring Failure Hero: Katsumi Yamada is a notable subversion. Not only has he never managed to obtain Total Victory, but from the 14th tournament on he hasn't even managed to complete the first stage. The fact that he's focused his life completely on this (which cost him his job and his family) makes it all the more heartbreaking. Nevertheless, he is considered an All-Star and fans (as well as the other All-Stars) continue to cheer him on for him to one day reach on top of Midoriyama.
  • Boring Invincible Heroine: Averted with Ayako Miyake, who has managed to win the Kunoichi competition 3 times consecutively. It helps that the obstacles are replaced with new (and more difficult) ones which makes the odd of winning even lower, let alone doing so twice. Even more so as she was actually eliminated at the second stage in her fourth competition.
  • Contest Winner Cameo: Following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, G4 and Sasuke's producers auctioned off a spot in the 27th tournament, with the proceeds going to the recovery efforts. The winner's run was shown, and though he failed on the First Stage he said he was honored to be there at all and glad that his money would be helping people.
  • Dave Wittenberg: The narrator on G4TV.
  • Determinator: A good way to tell an All-Star apart from the others is his determination to beat the course, and his crushing disappointment when he fails.
    • Bunpei Shiratori is a textbook example in the 15th tournament: after falling victim to heat exhaustion, the officials were unsure if he could even perform in the First Stage without endangering his health; regardless, he went on to get all the way to the Third Stage with little issue.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The ladies-only spin-off Kunoichi (aka "Women of Ninja Warrior") has a different set of obstacles focusing on balance and agility instead of upper-body strength. As mentioned above, it's still very difficult.
  • Death Course
  • Downer Ending: Makoto Nagano fell less than two-tenths of a second short of completing Stage 4 in the 12th tournament. But take heart. He eventually does win... three years later.
  • Every Year They Fizzle Out: While it's a given that most of the competitors will probably fail at some point in Stage 3 (most superheroes would probably fail Stage 3), Katsumi Yamada is the poster boy of the trope. Every tournament the announcers discuss how he spends his life training, and every year he fails - with a particularly bad stretch where he couldn't clear Stage 2. Ever since Sasuke 14, he has been unable to complete Stage 1.
    • Kazuhiko Akiyama would count, given his poor performances since his victory, but he suffers from chronic poor health and blindness, something the announcers bring up every time he competes since his victory.
  • Fan Service: The Kunoichi episodes. Come on, man. Come on.
  • Faux Action Girl: Yuko Mizuno; she's a very accomplished woman, but has suffered a lot of bad luck lately.
  • Gag Dub: The Spanish dub is a pretty lame Gag Dub, with a lot of toilet humor and lame risqué jokes, that tries to capitalize on the smashing success that Takeshi's Castle had in Spain, in the 80s, with a similar (though much funnier) dub.
  • Game Breaking Bug: Every now-and-then some obstacle on the course comes apart, and causes the contestant to lose. The Barrel Roll of early competitions is possibly most notable for randomly falling off the tracks every now and then.
    • Most recently, Levi Meeuwenburg took on the second stage and jumped on a sliding bar obstacle when the bar jumped the track and dropped him into the water, disqualifying him.
    • In the fourth women's tournament, one of the youngest competitors had what turned out to be one of the strongest Stage 1 runs... until she slipped on a towel that had been accidentally left on the course by one of the production team, and fell into the water. This led to an outraged reaction when the producers made the disqualification stand and refused to allow her another run, on the grounds that she should have seen the towel and avoided it.
    • Makoto Nagano fell victim to one of these during Stage 1's slide jump. While the obstacle worked fine for everyone else, part of the rope attached to the slider was stuck on the outside railing, which caused the slider to stop too many feet away from the net, and made the jump towards the net impossibly short. After Nagano complained about the rope getting cut off, the officials took a second look, and agreed with him, thus disqualifying his attempt. The good news and bad news: Nagano has to do the entire course over again. He succeeds.
    • In Sasuke 24, Kenji Takahashi was one of the competitors to make it to the final stage. During his climb, his safety line got tangled up and he was unable to continue until time eventually ran out.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Shingo Yamamoto's shoulder could certainly qualify, as it's dislocated on him three times to date. Fellow All-Star Bunpei Shiratori has been unable to compete in recent tournaments because of an injury.
    • Trampolinist Daisuke Nakata was the victim of a hit-and-run prior to Sasuke 17, leaving him with severely weakened grip strength. The effects are clearly seen when he attempts the third stage of the tournament, unable to make it past the Arm Rings, the first obstacle. He competes again in Sasuke 20, but he's unable to get past the Salmon Ladder.
  • Game Show
  • Heroic RROD: Many of the best contestants have the ability to make it all the way through, but get stuck on something that drains all the strength they have for the later obstacles.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Quite a few Tokusatsu actors crop up in this competition, including Kane Kosugi (Ninja Black/Jiraiya), Mitsuomi Takahashi (Bouken Red/Satoru Akashi), Toshiki Kashu (Agito/Shoichi Tsugami), Kenjiro Ishimaru (Owner), Keisuke Kato (Ixa/Keisuke Nago) and Masahiro Inoue (Decade/Tsukasa Kadoya). G4 doesn't tend to show their runs, apparently because Sasuke draws attention to their Toku roles and copyright issues are involved. However, you can occasionally see them in the audience (in one tournament, Kato and Inoue are sitting next to each other and remarking on other contestants) and they did once show Takahashi run the First Stage, complete with the announcer repeatedly calling him "Bouken Red" (which was subbed).
    • Kane Kosugi's runs actually are shown, mostly because he was a regular in early seasons (along with his brother Shane) and is better known for action movies than Kakuranger. Likewise Ishimaru, who is one of the oldest competitors to clear the First Stage, and is credited for his travel show and work as a narrator more than being on Den-O.
    • The 2009 run of Kunoichi had Playboy Playmate Sarah Jean Underwood -- who, a year later, would join the cast of Attack of the Show (she actually did quite well). The same run had Mikie Hara, star of Cutey Honey the Live.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Makoto Nagano on one occasion had the actually rather clever idea to grab the resting bar before the Devil's Swing to build up momentum. Unfortunately, this only resulted in the obstacle repeatedly getting stuck behind the resting bar. And then when he tried to make the jump to the final obstacle, he accidentally knocked it out of reach and failed the course.
  • Joke Character: "The Octopus", "The Butterfly", "Superman", and a cavalcade of comedians, cosplayers, near-nudists, and humorous pro wrestlers. They usually don't get very far in Stage 1. Only twice did one of these guys - both times comedian Kinnikun Nakayama - manage to get to Stage 2.
    • It should be noted that Kinnikun Nakayama is very, very muscular.
  • Little Miss Badass: Rena Higashi was able to reach stage 3 of Kunoichi when she was 13!
  • Lost in Translation: Hiroyuki Asaoka - a teacher of the Japanese equivalent of elementary school - is known by the alliterative pun nickname "Sasuke Sensei". In the English subtitles and narration, the nickname is changed to "Professor Ninja Warrior", which ruins the pun.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Even the best of the contestants will fail with one slight mistake.
  • Married to the Job: All-Star Katsumi Yamada; training for this is his job.
  • Mighty Glacier: Travis Schraeder can best be described as this; he's an extremely strong competitor and rarely loses the course by falling, but never manages to outrun the clock.
    • You What? He competed 2 and timed out once. On his first attempt, he posted the fastest Stage 1 clear.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: A Barack Obama pastiche runs in the 22nd edition, complete with the crowd waving flags and chanting, "Yes, we can!". He fails, and the announcer shouts out, "No, you can't!"
  • No Export for You: The UK rebroadcast of Ninja Warrior is basically the same as its US counterpart, but has the narrator changed to Stuart Hall (who has kinda done this sort of thing before).
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: With all the attention G4 gives to Levi Meuwenberg, Brian Orosco and others, it's easy to forget about Brett Sims, the winner of the first two American Ninja Warrior contests.
  • Platform Hell: Definitely a Real Life example. Boy howdy! Only three people (Kazuhiko Akiyama in the 4th Competition, fan favorite Makoto Nagano in the 17th Competition, and Yuuji Urishihara in the 24th and 27th Competition) have completed the entire course in 27 competitions. If you include the Kunoichi competitions, with Satomi Kadoi, Rie Komiya (who couldn't get past the Halfpipe Attack in Sasuke), and Ayako Miyake (who beat the Kunoichi course three times in a row), only six people have ever completed the course.
  • Positive Discrimination: Women can compete in both Sasuke and Kunoichi, but men can only compete in the former.
  • Promoted Fanboy: Those who made it to the tournament thanks to G4's "American Ninja Challenge" tie-in.
    • The best of these is Levi Meeuwenberg; in the 20th Competition, he got further than any other immediately asked back for the next tournament.
  • Rise to the Challenge: Stage 4, which is best described as "climb tower really fast".
  • Serial Escalation: If there is any stage or obstacle that is considered "too easy," it will be redesigned for the next tournament to make sure it is harder. In Sasuke 19 and 22, Stage 1 eliminated all of the Ninja Warrior All-Stars.
    • Not only did Sasuke 19 eliminate every All-Star in Stage 1, but 98 of the 100 competitors were eliminated on the stage. The two remaining competitors were both eliminated on the Salmon Ladder, an early but difficult Stage 2 obstacle.
    • Sasuke 25 reveals the Double Salmon Ladder for Stage 2, where you transition from one set of pegs to another, and the Ultimate Cliffhanger in Stage 3. Of the competitors who made it to the Cliffhanger, none are able to get beyond the first couple cliff transitions.
  • Shocking Elimination: Arguably every time an "All-Star" (save Katsumi Yamada) fails to make it past Stage 1. Ayako Miake in Kunoichi 7 on Stage 2.
    • In Sasuke 27, Li En Zhi failing the first obstacle of the first stage, after having made it past the first stage in the last 6 attempts.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Lee Yen Chee? Lee Yen Chi? Lee Enchi? Make up your mind, subtitles.
    • And just to add to the confusion, the name pronunciation, and the name used on the Sasuke Wiki, is Li En Zhi, a fourth possibility.
    • It's Wakky, not Wacky. G4 doesn't seem to understand this.
  • Spin-Off: Until about the 8th Competition, the background is dotted with the emblems for Muscle Ranking; Sasuke was initially run during that show, and was spun off.
  • Spiritual Successor: ABC's Wipeout series was inspired by Ninja Warrior - to the point where there was a lawsuit over the similarities between Wipeout and Sasuke - but has fewer competitors, changes up the rules (falling off the course during a stage doesn't eliminate you, finishing last does; the first person to complete the last stage sets the pace that the other competitors must beat to win the competition), and uses "wacky" challenges instead of challenges meant to test one's physical limits.
  • Super Strength: You'll need as much upper-body as can be humanly summoned to beat Stage 3.
  • Take Your Time: Anyone that reaches Stage 3 has an unlimited amount of time to complete it. Considering the obstacles in this stage, this is very justified.
  • Tempting Fate: During one competition, the announcer mentions that the current competitor, Makoto Nagano, barely ever made mistakes. Upon nearing the end of the course he forgets to kick off of the right part of the second to last obstacle and fails the course.
    • In Sasuke 25, right before Toshihiro Takeda takes on Stage 2, he smugly remarks how no one's failed at the new Double Salmon Ladder yet. Guess who's the first one that does.
  • Ten-Minute Retirement: Katsumi Yamada has remarked several times that he will stop competing, but he always seems to come back.
  • Title Drop: The Japanese announcer whenever one of the G4 competitors is running the course.
    • The Japanese name is Title Dropped a lot.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The Sasuke 27 commercial shown Shingo Yamamoto failing a brand-new obstacle.
  • Transsexualism: Hibari.
  • True Companions: It may be a competition, but the real opponent is the course rather than the other contestants. As a result, regulars like the All-Stars and the up-and-coming young guns have a great deal of respect for and camaraderie with each other. Shown rather touchingly by G4's special detailing Levi Meeuwenberg's training, where he spent a good deal of time with the All-Stars (Makoto Nagano in particular) and all of them were eager to let this person they barely knew into their homes and treat him as one of their own.
  • What Could Have Been: Given the surprising performance of the American Ninja Warrior 2 finalists, one must wonder how far Levi Meeuwenburg would've gone had he not broken his wrist.
  • World of Badass: It's a show about people from all walks of life, from Olympic athletes to gas station attendants, running an insanely grueling Japanese obstacle course in the name of glory.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: The most glaring example is Katsumi Yamada, to the point where he actually quit competing for a tournament before having a He's Back moment
    • Shingo Yamamoto manages to get to the third stage in the 23rd competition, the first time since the 17th competition and failed on the first obstacle. The reason? Remember when he dislocated his shoulder during his ascent on the Final Stage (See Downer Ending)? The same shoulder got dislocated only seconds after starting the third stage!
      • For double the ouch factor, if you watch the replay, and know it's coming, you can actually see the moment his shoulder pops.
    • After making it through the qualifying round of American Ninja Warrior 2 and going through the entire boot camp training regiment, Levi Meeuwenburg broke his wrist just before the Americans were set to head to Japan. He was still able to go, but he was unable to compete, prompting Adam Laplante to be brought in to take his place.
  • You Are Too Late: The worst example of all time was Yuko Mizuno; just as she makes it to the top of the tower in the final stage and hits the buzzer, time ran out. Just in seconds, victory eluded her.